Saturday, December 1, 2012

Blowfish Invitational Report

By Nic Chrysochou:

Shuffle deck
Dice roll
Play/draw first
Early game
Mid game
Late game
End game

If you remove the finer details this is basically what the card game Magic the Gathering™ is all about.
Looks simple and should be but the process to get to the "end game" is much more complicated.
It is inevitable that if you lose (or win) at any anything your thoughts become intoxicated with the reasons for failure/success and the purpose of you competing in the first place.

Most people don’t take failure very easily and it takes real courage to reflect on what transpired and attempt to determine what to improve on.

When we are competing in some event it is human nature that the result should be reflective of the effort put in (what you put in is what you get out), this enables us to justify the reason for making the effort in the first place.

If one goes to the gym say at least four times a week for the next three months they would be expecting some amount of muscle growth or fat loss because they have put the time in and made an effort. After all we need visual confirmation that our efforts have not been in vain in order to motivate us to continue trying because we are yielding results.

This is a flaw that we all are susceptible to.

If we put our headphones on and zone-out while running on the treadmill we cannot really expect to see the same results as everyone else. When we do something, we should be motivated and preparing our minds for the influx of new information. In other words the quality of preparation/effort is much more important than the quantity.

Magic the Gathering™ is not a physical game (luckily for most players) but involves the same quality of concentration as any other activity. In order to improve and learn we actually need to reflect thoroughly on our experiences. Unfortunately/fortunately there is an unquantifiable force known as variance or luck that can interfere with our ambitions. If it was possible to learn how to minimise the negative effects of variance then we could all become better players.

I read an interview with Adam Katz earlier this year where he talked about how after matches he would always think about the plays he made and how the games went.

Some of us may have sleepless nights trying to figure out the best possible outcome of certain games or plays we made that day that could have resulted in a favourable outcome. This is one unconscious way of learning to make better or more quality plays.

A quote from Patrick Chapin’s "Next Level Magic" goes as follows, "It is important to note that my goal is to play Magic perfect in tournaments -- not to actually win them. It is more of a cause and effect relationship, as playing perfectly brings a surprising amount of success."

While this is what all magic players strive towards it takes an incredible amount of practise (quality) to first get to that level and then be able to make the best possible plays.

As much as I would like to write an article about winning the first Blowfish Invitational I unfortunately am in the position of being requested to write an article about how I absolutely and spectacularly failed to perform over the weekend.

As mentioned above one of the most unpleasant feelings is to put a lot of money and effort into something and then have very little or no reward to show in the end.
This is a brief explanation of how my preparation went for the invitational:
 Read up to 6 renowned magic websites articles and strategy guides over the past 4 weeks
 Watched plenty of draft and constructed videos
 Printed out top 8 deck lists of all major events
 Draft simulators
 Online Magic rules tests
 Drafts, tournaments and practice sessions

In my interview before the invitational I gave suggestions on what I felt the other players would be preparing for the event.

In the end the Top 8 was littered with Midrange decks with a single Aggro and Control list.

From my research I decided that UWR Midrange would be my weapon of choice, from match reports and some play-testing it seemed to have all the tools to combat any Aggro / Midrange / Rogue or even Control decks.

In my opinion I still felt that the 4 Colour Frites / Reanimator deck would be the best deck because it can just go bigger than any other deck and can recur or cast its threats even with plenty of "hate" cards in all sideboards.

The reason for not choosing the 4 Colour Frites deck was because I was not willing to face Thragtusk / Angel of Serenity mirrors the whole weekend but rather wanted to beat those specific cards.
I initially experimented with Swift Justice in order to get my Geist of Saint Traft / Thundermaw Hellkite through against Thragtusk, Centaur Healers, Angel of Serenity's and other 3 or 6 toughness creatures.

I eventually realised that it might be better to just keep those creatures locked down for a few turns or use counterspells on them.

For reference here is my constructed deck list for day:
UWR Midrange:
Creatures -
4x Restoration Angel
4x Geist of Saint Traft
4x Snapcaster Mage
2x Thundermaw Hellkite
2x Dungeon Geists

Spells -
3x Pillar of flame
3x Searing Spear
2x Unsummon
3x Syncopate
2x Dissipate
1x Essence Scatter
2x Feeling of Dread
4x Azorius Charm

Lands -
3x Sulfur Falls
3x Glacial Fortress
4x Clifftop Retreat
4x Steam Vents
4x Hallowed Fountain
2x Moorland Haunt
2x Island
1x Plains
1x Mountain

Sideboard -
2x Detention sphere
1x Pillar of flame
1x Dissipate
2x Purify the grave
3x Supreme Verdict
1x Negate
1x Sphinx’s revelation
3x Knight of Glory
1x Sundering Growth

I am not going to justify all my choices or even the sideboard strategy as I am not 100% confident they are entirely correct after what happened at the event.

Here is how the event went for me:
Day 1 - Constructed
Round 1: Bye
Round 2: Mervin Wong - Win 2-0 - Selesnya Aggro
Round 3: Devin Dilworth - Loss 0-2 - Jund Zombies

Day 1 - M13 Draft
Round 4: Colin Bosman - Loss 1-2 - Green/Black
Round 5: Mark Leeming - Win 2-0 - Red/Black
Round 6: Mark Young - Win 2-0 - Black/White into Esper

Day 2 - Return to Ravnica Draft
Round 7: Jonathan Phippen - Loss 1-2 - Rakdos (Pack Rats)
Round 8: Mike West - Loss 1-2 - Golgari
Round 9: Clinton Smit - Loss 0-2 - Azorius

Day 2 -Constructed
Round 10: Alwyn Cloete - Draw - Jund Midrange
Round 11: Kevin Leong - Loss 1-2 - Bant Tokens
Round 12: Justin Hean - Win 2-1 - Rakdos zombies

After the first draft I felt that I had a very solid deck and I have had a lot of experience and practise with M13 drafting and should have gone 3-0.

I drafted a Red/Green deck containing some of the following cards:
2x Arbor Elf
2x Centaur Courser
1x Primordial Hydra
1x Chandra the Firebrand
1x Searing Spear
1x Flames of the Firebrand
1x Volcanic Geyser
1x Sentinel Spider
1x Prey Upon
1x Titanic Growth
1x Rancor
1x Bladetusk Boar
Some other creatures

The defining game in my Draft pod was the first game against Colin. I know Colin is one of the better Magic players and has been to a Pro Tour. For some strange reason in the first game I tried to predict every play he was going to make and how to play around his spells based on my knowledge of the cards in M13. Nonetheless he had an excellent draw in the first game and continually put me under pressure, possibly because of this I made a major play error in not casting Flames of the Firebrand to deal him three damage, because the next turn I draw Chandra's Fury and was one mana short to cast both for 7 damage to take game 1. After Colin told me my play was too slow I realised that I was thinking too hard and decided to just let my deck do the playing. Fortunately my deck performed optimally to take game 2, but still ended up losing a close game 3.

After the second draft I once again felt confident I had a solid deck. Here are a few cards from my Selesnya splash Black deck:
2x Stab Wound
2x Common Bond
2x Centaur Healer
2x Trostani’s Judgment
1x Azor’s Elocutors
2x Axebane Guardian
2x Fencing Ace
1x Coursers’ Accord
2x Selesnya Charm
1x Martial Law
Some other cards

The second Constructed portion seemed to follow the same pattern as the Draft with unusual draws and lots of mulliganing and I can’t really comment much on the match-ups as none of the games were particularly memorable.

The bottom line is that I never had the opportunity to put myself into a winning position during my games especially on Day 2 and from the match reports on Blowfish Invitational LiveBlog you can see that I got very frustrated during the second Draft rounds.

Nonetheless a big thanks to Blowfish, the judges and everyone involved for organising the event. Also to Outer Limits Hatfield for the T-shirts and keeping us up late on Friday evenings to try to qualify for the event.
Well Done to all the consistent players who made Top 8, especially to Sunny Huang for making Top 4 again, and to Enrico Guarneri for once again proving he is one of SA's top players by “taking down” the tournament.

“I didn't fail the test; I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.” ― Benjamin Franklin

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